GSA adds IBM to line of business schedule

The General Services Administration added IBM to the list of vendors approved to provide services under the Human Resources Line of Business. But Big Blue and the three other vendors who won places on the schedule last month may not get much business in the near future.

In a provision tucked into the Financial Services and General Government portion of the omnibus appropriations bill, lawmakers are prohibiting agencies from moving forward with competitions under the LOB until the Office of Management and Budget submits a report to the congressional appropriations committees and the Government Accountability Office.

The provision states: “None of the funds available under this or any other act may be used to carry out a public/private competition or direct conversion under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76, or any successor regulation, directive or policy relating to the Human Resources Lines of Business initiative until 60 days after the director of OMB submits to the Committees on Appropriations…a report on the use of public/private competitions and direct conversion to contractor performance as part of the Human Resources Lines of Business initiative.”

A former Capitol Hill staff member said this language is similar to the concerns expressed about all of the Bush administration’s e-government and A-76 initiatives.

“OMB makes a lot of claims about how much can be saved over 5 to10 years, and this report the committee wants is trying to get some details to that,” said the staff member, who requested anonymity. “This is a pretty big deal to do because it is applied governmentwide.”

Lawmakers want to know five things in the report, including the impact of the HR LOB on federal employees and the cost of transitioning to a new provider.

The provision likely came from one of the 10 senators and representatives who signed a letter to OMB’s deputy director for management, Clay Johnson, expressing their concern about the HR LOB program.

In the Sept. 21 letter, the lawmakers said they believe the HR LOB program “treats federal employees unfairly, allows for abuse in the privatization process and risks the healthy functioning of the federal government.” The letter detailed three concerns relating to A-76 and competing agency HR services with the private and public sectors.

Agencies cannot move forward with the initiative until OMB submits the report, the former Hill staff member and other sources confirmed.

“The faster OMB delivers the report, the quicker the restriction on spending funds goes away,” the former staff member said. “This calls for a big chunk of work for folks at OMB and at the agencies. They must show hard numbers, and that is easier said than done.”

The provision comes just as OMB and the Office of Personnel Management, which runs the initiative, had hoped to get the HR LOB moving. GSA, which helped OPM with the acquisition phase, added IBM to the list of three other companies — Accenture, Allied Technology Group and Carahsoft Technology — which had won spots on the HR schedule, 738.X, a five-year base contract with three five-year options.

IBM spokeswoman Lia Davis said this award fits in with other work they already are doing. The company is working with the Air Force on an assisted-services project for human resources.

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